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Students Gather Peacefully in Baltimore as Freddie Gray Protests Spread to Other Cities

Students from local high schools and universities in Baltimore called for an end to aggressive policing practices as multiple demonstrators were arrested at a solidarity protest in New York City.
Photo by Eric Thayer/Reuters

Protesters continued to take to the streets of Baltimore on Wednesday, with students from local high schools and universities organizing a march at the city's train station that called for an end to aggressive policing practices and justice for Freddie Gray, the man who died in police custody earlier this month.

The student protests came just two days after Baltimore police blamed "youths" for hurling chunks of cinder blocks and bricks at officers when they got out of school on Monday, the day of Gray's funeral. The clashes between the students and riot gear-clad cops led to widespread vandalism, arsons, and looting. In stark contrast to events earlier in the week, the demonstrations Wednesday were peaceful, with police and protest organizers cooperating to move the crowd efficiently through the city.


Related: A Tale of Two Cities: How Baltimore Reached Its Boiling Point

Students protesting Wednesday in Baltimore. (Photo by Colleen Curry)

A protester named Keezy Edmunds said police seemed to be more accommodating because the crowd Wednesday was whiter than the groups that took to the streets on Monday and Tuesday.

"When black people came down here yesterday they wouldn't let them protest here — made them leave," Edmunds told VICE News. "There were horses that came and blocked off the same route. They were the same peaceful protest but it was black people. Why do we have to separate them? There are some Caucasians that had a separate march down here yesterday. But when the black people from the projects came here, they made them leave."

Solidarity protests for the Freddie Gray demonstrators were also held Wednesday in cities across the country. A large crowd gathered near Union Square in Manhattan, chanting the familiar slogans "Black lives matter" and "No justice, no peace." Police made multiple arrests after warning protesters not to march in the street.

Related: State of Emergency - Baltimore, Maryland (Dispatch 1)

NYC: NYPD reporting people blocking traffic Multiple Arrest wagons requested. #BaltimoreRiots #FreddieGray

— NYC Scanner (@NYScanner) April 29, 2015

Erica Garner, daughter of Eric Garner, is here in Union Square. "This has to stop now!"

— Amanda M. Sakuma (@iamsakuma) April 29, 2015


Similar solidarity protests were also held in Boston, Chicago, Denver, Minneapolis, San Diego, and Washington, DC.

In Baltimore, a vigil was held Wednesday at City Hall for Tyrone West, a 44-year-old man who died in June 2013 after a violent encounter with police in northeast Baltimore. An autopsy said West died from a heart condition, but witnesses reportedly said he was beaten after clashing with police during a traffic stop. West's aunt, Emma Anderson, told VICE News they have been holding weekly vigils.

Related: Baltimore Protesters Call for Peace and Justice After Chaotic Night of Riots

Tyrone West's family at the vigil Wednesday in Baltimore. (Photo by Colleen Curry)

"The public and the world didn't notice 'til Friday, but Tyrone West died two years ago, and that was our Ferguson," Anderson said. "This is what they're doing now. Between the police brutality in the Bill of Rights, it's nothing but a dead man walking. I mean that because any minute now it could be any of us."

The citywide 10pm curfew implemented by Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake after the riots Monday is still in effect. Only a small group of protesters challenged the city's curfew last night at the central protesting location of North and Pennsylvania Avenues in the neighborhood where Gray was killed. Police dispersed the crowd with smoke and rubber bullets and later said 35 people were arrested.